Monday, April 21, 2008

Son of Rambow

By Michael Cho

An indie British "coming of age" flick set in the '80s has face paints, bows... and heart.

Starring: Zofia Brooks, Neil Dudgeon, Tallulah Evans, Adam Godley
Directed by: Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith
96 minutes

First of all, big props to Capone of Ain’t It Cool News, for hooking me up with tickets to the advanced screening.

Son of Rambow is the newest film by producer/writer/director duo Hammer and Tongs, otherwise known as Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith.  Known primarily for their work in music videos, for artists such as R.E.M., Blur, Fatboy Slim, The Eels and Radiohead, this is their second feature film following The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxySon of Rambow was intended to be Hammer & Tong’s first film, but was put on hold so they could direct Hitchiker’s.  Fortunately, unlike Hitchhiker’s, this film is superb and provides a redemption for the filmmakers, instead of letting it be their sophomore slump.

Son of Rambow is set in England in the early 80’s, and tells the story of Will Proudfoot (Bill Miner) and his friendship with Lee Carter (Will Poulter).  Will, is a child of the Plymouth Brethren religious sect, a British version of Mennonites.  He is forbidden to watch TV or films, and have any contact with the pop culture of the “outside” world.  Lee, is the school badboy, who has absent parental control and is often left to his own devices.  In a random series of events, Lee and Will meet, and Will is exposed to a bootleg copy of First Blood and his imagination explodes as he gets a taste of pop culture.  Will then agrees to be a stuntman in Lee’s homemade film

The film soon takes a life of its own as both boys fight to exert control of how the film is made.  The experience eventually affects both of their lives and interactions with people at home and at school.

Son of Rambow is good.  That’s all there is.  It celebrates being young, having an unlimited imagination, and how good it feels to share it with someone else.  The cinematography of the film is accentuated by some visual twists and turns and unexpected special effects which enhance the storytelling.  The young lead actors convincingly portray both a wide-eyed naiveté and sense of cynicism at the same time.  The writing for the most is solid and amusing, in that British way.

References to the era of the film’s story, the early 80’s, are very tongue in cheek and a funny in that, “I wore/looked like that?” manner.  However, it feels like they were added in only to provide a quick laugh for the target audience of the film.  My only other complaint about the movie is a somewhat stunted B plot involving a prominent minor character.  There aren’t any loose ends per se, but a little more attention to it would have satisfied me.


Ultimately, you cannot leave this film without feeling good.  It has everything you need:  heart, nostalgia, inventiveness and adoration of the wide-eyed-ness of youth.  Yes, in many ways the film is formulaic, you know where the plot twists are going to come, but you don’t care.  This is a brilliant piece of work by filmmakers who have shown that when left to their own devices, they can produce a work better than what most major studios and their large special effects budgets can ever hope to catch.  Once again, independent filmmakers who have a real story to tell shine and resurrect faith in film.

Son of Rambow limited US release begins on May 2nd, 2008.

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